Psalm 13

Psalm 13

For the director of music. A psalm of David.

How long, Lord? Will you forget me forever?
    How long will you hide your face from me?
How long must I wrestle with my thoughts
    and day after day have sorrow in my heart?
    How long will my enemy triumph over me?

Look on me and answer, Lord my God.
    Give light to my eyes, or I will sleep in death,
and my enemy will say, “I have overcome him,”
    and my foes will rejoice when I fall.

But I trust in your unfailing love;
    my heart rejoices in your salvation.
I will sing the Lord’s praise,
    for he has been good to me.
(Psalm 13:1-6 NIV)

If I were to put a title on this psalm, I would call it “The Prayer of a Despairing Soul”.

David does not tell us the circumstances that brought him to this low point in his life, and there is no particular historical context that we might associate with this psalm.  We know that David had many low points; when Saul and his army chased David around the country and David had to hide in caves; when David sinned with Bathsheba and had her husband killed, then confessed his sin; when David fled from his son Absalom when Absalom sought to kill him; when David pretended to be insane to escape from Abimalek, who sought his life.

When life is more than we can seemingly bear, what do we do?  Do we reach out, or do we withdraw?  Do we press harder, or do we give up?  Do we look down, or do we look up?

David felt overwhelmed, and he began by asking four questions that many of us ask:

  • How long, Lord? Will you forget me forever?
    David begins acknowledging that God exists, but wonders if God even knows that he (David) exists.  David feels his smallness and wonders if he is even on God’s “radar”.  This trial he was experiencing was a long-term issue, as David asks if God had forgotten him “forever”.

    Have you ever felt like God is distant, and you are abandoned by God?

  • How long will you hide your face from me?
    David knows that God has not forgotten him, but now sinks deeper in despair when he wonders if God had turned His face away in displeasure.  Was God mad at David?  Had David done something wrong?  Or had God found someone else to focus His attention on?  David was having a pity party, wondering why he wasn’t the center of God’s attention.  David’s pride and selfishness were on display.

    Have you ever felt like God was ignoring you?

  • How long must I wrestle with my thoughts
        and day after day have sorrow in my heart?
    David slipped even deeper into misery and felt like he was carrying this load of despair alone.  This load was overwhelming him both mentally (in his thoughts) and emotionally (in his heart).  David, in his pride, was still fighting the battle on both the mental and emotional fronts, but was not winning the war.  David had not had a psychotic break or an emotional breakdown, but knew that something had to change or his present state of mind and emotions could lead to either one or both of those conditions.

    Have you ever felt like you had to carry “the weight of the world on your shoulders” – the burden of all your sorrows and pain?

  • How long will my enemy triumph over me?
    David hit the bottom of the pit of despair when he admitted defeat at the hands of the enemy.  David felt like God had abandoned him, that God was ignoring him, that God was not relieving him of the mental and emotional burden of this trial, and now, God was not rescuing him from this despair.  David had tried to do this battle on his own via his pride and self-sufficiency, and had failed miserably.

    Have you ever felt like you wanted to give up on life, that the enemy had won the battle and it was not worth fighting anymore?

In each of these four questions, David was focusing on his feelings and his own power to pull himself out of this mess.

In verses 3 and 4, David finally looks to God from his sorrowful state and asks for help.  David has moved from being face-down in despair to on his knees, humbly asking God to intervene.  As David turns to the Lord for help, notice how David addresses the first three questions he asked above:

  • Look on me and answer, Lord my God.
    David asks the Lord to consider his circumstances and provide an answer.  This is not a demand to God, but rather a heartfelt plea for assistance.  Also notice that the distance instantly shrinks as David claims the Lord as his God.

    What is your prayer before the Lord when you turn your focus from your struggle and pain and circumstances to Him?

  • Give light to my eyes, or I will sleep in death
    David asks for the Lord’s joy to return to his life.  The English phrase “give light to my eyes” in the Hebrew literally means “to cause to shine”.  When a person is sick or in deep despair, have you noticed that their energy level is way down, and their eyes are dull, flat, and lacking luster?  Conversely, when a person is healthy and has the joy of the Lord in their life, they are full of energy, and their eyes seem to sparkle?  David had experienced the joy of the Lord before and wanted it back.

    When you look in the mirror, what do your eyes tell you?

  • and my enemy will say, “I have overcome him,”
        and my foes will rejoice when I fall.
    David releases his archenemy to the Lord, allowing the Lord to bring justice to the circumstance.  By releasing this issue to the Lord, David also frees himself from the weight of despondency and despair.  The issue may not have gone away, but the despair and depression associated with it are now gone.

    Have you released your “enemy” (whatever or whomever it might be) to the Lord?

 

David has moved from being face-down in despair, changing position to on his knees asking for God’s intervention through prayer.  As we look at verses 5-6, we see David now standing on his feet, praising the Lord.  In these final verses, we also see David answering the fourth question he asked earlier:

  • But I trust in your unfailing love;
    David has now made the complete shift of mindset, as he remembers God’s love and grace and blessings in his life.  David has put all the mental and emotional weight of this circumstance on the Lord, trusting in God’s unfailing and constant love for him.

    Have you made the shift from “Jesus plus resolving this issue in my life is enough” to saying “Jesus, You are enough”?

  • my heart rejoices in your salvation.
    David is now fully reliant on the Lord regardless if the issue is resolved in his lifetime or not.  David has trusted in God’s love, and is now trusting in God’s justice.

    Where are you looking for your joy?  From your life events, or from the Lord?

  • I will sing the Lord’s praise,
    David’s focus now changes from downward and inward to upward and outward, leading him to praise the Lord through song.  How do we know this?  Look at David’s introductory notes at the top:  “For the Director of Music.”  David was looking for the best way to express his thankfulness to God, and he chose music, specifically singing.  David knew that singing involves our whole being – our inner self (our mental and emotional selves and our will) and our outer self (our body and our strength and our connection with others).

    How do you express your thanks to the Lord that engages all of who you are (both the inner and outer parts of you)?

  • for he has been good to me.
    Finally, David tells us the shift in his thinking and reasoning.  At the beginning, David was in a “so that _____” mindset, where he was asking God for relief from his burdens so that he could enjoy life again.  Now David has repented of that selfish and prideful attitude, and has changed to the “because _____” mindset, where he places his life in God’s hands and experiences God’s joy because of God’s love and goodness, regardless of his circumstances or life burdens.

    Have you made the shift from “so that _____” to “because _____”?

May we learn from David’s psalm and follow his example.

Jesus is enough.

Blessings,
~kevin